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California dog bite victims could be awarded punitive damages

California dog bite victims who believe that they are not entitled to punitive damages may find interest in a 2015 Pennsylvania court ruling. The case involved a dog with multiple incidents of alleged past aggression, including an incident in which the owners admitted to failing to restrain the dog after the animal had bitten a child. Neighbors reportedly complained to the defendants about their dog's aggressive behavior and a lack of restraint.

The defendants filed preliminary objections in response to the complaint filed after the dog's most recent alleged attack. The defendants claimed that the animal's past incidences of aggressive behavior were not enough basis for punitive damages. However, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, stating that the case met the basic requirements for punitive damages. The court stated that the owners of the dog failed to minimize the risk to the plaintiffs that they could have reasonable assessed based on the animal's behavior.

The court case is significant because it combats a long held notion that punitive damages are not appropriate in animal bite cases. Because the plaintiffs were awarded punitive damages, the case may set a precedent for similar awards in other cases. The court awarded punitive damages due to the egregious nature of the defendants' lack of restraint for the animal.

Those who sustained traumatic injuries as a result of a dog bite or attack may be eligible to recover not the costs of medical care but punitive damages as well. Punitive damages are based on the egregious behavior of the defendant. In a dog bite claim where the defendant could reasonably have anticipated the animal's aggression and prevented the attack, the victim may be eligible for such an award.

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